Title: A Map of Home
Author: Randa Jarrar
Release Date: September 2, 2008
Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics)
Genre: Literary Fiction, Multicultural Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
From the publisher’s website:
In this fresh, funny, and fearless debut novel, Randa Jarrar chronicles the coming-of-age of Nidali, one of the most unique and irrepressible narrators in contemporary fiction. Born in 1970s Boston to an Egyptian-Greek mother and a Palestinian father, the rebellious Nidali—whose name is a feminization of the word “struggle”—soon moves to a very different life in Kuwait. There the family leads a mildly eccentric middle-class existence until the Iraqi invasion drives them first to Egypt and then to Texas. This critically acclaimed debut novel is set to capture the hearts of everyone who has ever wondered what their own map of home might look like.
Randa Jarrar’s debut novel A Map of Home is a coming-of-age story in every sense of the word: the main character, Nidali, deals with a cultural, social, political and sexual awakening. Her constant traveling as a young girl contributes to the different ways she experienced this self-realization: as she became aware of a new culture and/or a new political situation in the Middle East, her story changed because of it.
Nidali herself is a very interesting character. Her name is very apt: for the entire novel, she is struggling against the forces that are trying to shape and mold her. She rebels against her strict father, trying to experience the social and sexual freedoms she believes any teenager deserves. She rails against the cultural norms in the Middle East, trying to discover how to live life on her own terms. Though I found her selfish at times, Nidali is generally an endearing character whose journey it is easy to get lost in.
Though A Map of Home is a rather short, small book, it moved slowly through many parts of the book. The beginning and ending were very engaging, but the middle was somewhat stagnant. Additionally, I was surprised at the sheer amount of sexuality (mostly masturbation, always a rather uncomfortable subject) and foul language in the novel. Without these elements, this book could have made a wonderful cultural awakening story for teens, but I’m not sure it’s entirely appropriate in its current state – not because of the sex, but simply because I was very uncomfortable reading it at times.
Despite this issues, A Map of Home is still a rewarding read about a girl’s search for herself within an ocean of different cultures, societies, and social norms. It is definitely a good book for anyone interested in multicultural fiction, as well as in coming of age stories.